How Cameroon’s stolen wood reaches international markets

Press release - 26 May, 2016
Yaoundé, Cameroon, 26 May 2016 - Logging company, La Socamba, must be included in a Cameroonian government audit of illegally-sourced timber destined for worldwide markets, according to a Greenpeace Africa investigation which has uncovered a trail of stolen timber leading to Cameroon’s main log exporter, Compagnie de Commerce et de Transport (CCT).

The evidence presented in the briefing, La Socamba: How Cameroon’s Stolen Wood Reaches International Markets, demonstrates how CCT, which supplies timber companies worldwide, including China and Europe, sources timber from La Socamba, a company engaged in illegal and destructive practices, including logging several kilometres outside their legal logging title.

This new case compliments evidence already presented by Greenpeace in its reports on CCT suppliers.[1] On 25 May, in response to a Greenpeace offer of a right to response, CCT admitted that Cameroon’s Ministry of Forests and Wildlife (MINFOF) had ordered an audit of the activities of CCT and its suppliers to determine which were involved in illegal activities and to trace the resulting timber. [2]

Eric Ini, Greenpeace Africa forest campaigner, said:

“Greenpeace Africa takes note of the audit of CCT’s practices – but stresses that this process should be independent and transparent, and that CCT suppliers are properly sanctioned when illegal activities are confirmed.”

In September 2015, Greenpeace Netherlands published three cases of illegal logging in permits supplying CCT: logging permits exploited by South Forestry Company (SFC), FEEMAM and SOFOCAM. The Minister of Forestry, Ngole Philip Ngwese, has proclaimed the innocence of companies exposed by Greenpeace for their involvement in illegal logging.[3] Yet, one of the companies investigated by Greenpeace, SFC, has been fined by the authorities twice for exactly the kind of practices Greenpeace exposed, and CCT and its suppliers are now apparently subject to an investigation by MINFOF [4]. In addition, the Dutch authorities sanctioned the Dutch importer of CCT timber based on the Greenpeace evidence [5]. ”If Cameroon is serious about ending the illegal timber trade, it must work closely with the EU towards credible implementation of the Voluntary Partnership Agreement and, as a first priority, re-establish a system of credible Independent Monitoring of Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade in Cameroon”, concluded Ini. Next to Belgium and the Netherlands, the UK government also regards timber from Cameroon as “high risk” and has recently investigated UK operators trading in Cameroon timber. These actions from the UK government and the sanction from the Dutch Authorities are positive first steps. However, all EU countries must treat timber from Cameroon as high risk, and require stringent due diligence from importing companies until the government of Cameroon can prove beyond reasonable doubts that it is properly enforcing the country’s forestry laws and regulations.

Cameroon’s forests support the livelihoods of thousands of people and are amongst the region’s most biologically diverse forests, providing valuable habitat for endangered Western Lowland Gorillas, chimpanzees and forest elephants, amongst other species. Unsustainable and illegal logging in these forests is leading to deforestation, destruction of the ecosystem and diminished resilience to climate change.

The La Socamba briefing can be read here.

A storymap, with photographs documenting the journey of timber illegally felled by La Socamba, can be seen here

ENDS

Notes for editors:

[1] The Greenpeace report CCT’S Timber Trade from Cameroon to Europe listed CCT’s main 2014 suppliers, providing evidence that several were involved in illegal logging activities. A frequently observed infringement was that of logging outside the boundaries of the VC, then subsequent declaring of this illegal wood as originating from the legal logging title. Read the “Laundering the timber” report here

[2] Correspondence between CCT and Greenpeace, May 25, 2016: Monsieur, A la demande de Greenpeace, le MINFOF a commandité un audit en cours sur les activités de CCT a ses fournisseurs. Le rapport attendu établira la responsabilités des uns et des autres dans des éventuelles activités illégales en meme temps qu'il tracera éventuellement les bois qui en sont issus. Veuillez agréer l'expression de mes sentiments distingués. Antoine EL-CHAYEB CCT

[3] MINFOF (2016). N°0031/CP/MINFOF/SG/CC. Communiqué de presse. Le Cameroun défendra l’idéal de la gestion durable des forêts tropicales en dépit de l’acharnement injustifié de Greenpeace, March 11, 2016.

[4] On 23 June 2015 SFC was fined 38.595.237 francs CFA (around 58.800 EUR) for logging beyond the allowed period in VC 09 01 305. On 18 January 2016 the company was fined another 6.499.810 francs CFA (around 9.900 EUR) for out-of-boundary logging in an unspecified VC. Source: MINFOF. Communiqué N° 0064/C/MINFOF/CAB/BNC of 28 April 2016

[5] The dutch Competent Authorities stated that: “Because of the political situation in the Congo Basin, timber from Cameroon may only be placed on the market if the importer has taken sufficient mitigating measures to make sure the risk that the timber is illegally harvested is negligible” https://www.nvwa.nl/actueel/nieuws/nieuwsbericht/2072721/nvwa-treedt-op-tegen-houtimporteur-wegens-overtreden-regels-illegaal-hout “Sales of standing volume” (hereinafter referred to as VCs from the French ventes de coupe). VCs cover an area of maximum 2500 hectares and have a validity of maximum three years (Art. 55, Law N° 94/01). VC logging represents “cut-and-run” logging of a highly destructive nature: typically they are rapidly exploited in a highly destructive manner, as no management plan is legally required. There is frequent fraud and corruption in the allocation of the permits, which is also frequently associated to illegal logging (CONAC, 2012) (Hoare, 2015). Hoare, A. (2015). Illegal logging and related trade. The response in Cameroon. A Chatham House Assessment. London: Chatham House - The Royal Institute of International Affairs. Retrieved from https://www.chathamhouse.org/sites/files/chathamhouse/field/field_document/20150121IllegalLoggingCameroonHoare.pdf République du Cameroun. Présidence de la République. Commission Nationale Anti-Corruption (CONAC). (2012). Rapport sur l’état de la lutte contre la corruption au Cameroun en 2011.

Contacts:

Eric Ini, forest campaigner, Greenpeace Africa, +237 655 304 948,

Greenpeace International Press Desk, +31 (0)20 718 2470 (available 24 hours),

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